Scientists in Canada have discovered that changes in lipid metabolism for women after childbirth may be the driving force leading to the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D) following gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy.
Lipids are types of molecules that make up the building blocks of the structure and function of living cells. They store energy and serve as cellular messengers in the human body.
Women who have had GDM are three to seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years.
In the study, researchers analysed over 1,000 different lipids collected from 350 women with gestational diabetes between six to nine weeks after childbirth. Of these women, 171 went on to develop type 2 diabetes within the next eight years and 179 did not. The research analysis identified 311 lipids which were associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes and 70 lipids which were associated with a lower risk.
The findings suggest that metabolic dysregulation is present years prior to T2D diabetes onset, and is revealed during the early postpartum period, preceding progression to T2D, among women with GDM.
By developing a lipid signature – essentially a test for metabolic changes in a set of 11 specific lipids, scientists believe that may be able to effectively predict future T2D risk.
While the research is still in early stages, the potential to in the future identify women most at risk of progressing from GDM to T2D will ensure more timely intervention, allow preventative care to be provided and therefore result in a decline in the number of mothers developing T2D.